Melanoma: A Golfer’s Family Journey, Part I

‘You have melanoma.’ Three words that truly change your life forever. In August, 2008 those words were given to my mom and our family. It was a few weeks later in September, 2008 that those words forever changed our life when the prognosis, after many tests was grim and what appeared to be a death sentence.  Stage IV malignant melanoma.  Shock and devastation.  How could this be?
Mom was a sun goddess and a tanning bed addict.  In June, 2007 after she noticed a change in a small, reddish colored mole on the upper part of her left arm and had it removed. It came back malignant. Another surgery followed that went deep into her arm, taking muscle and tissue and was informed that everything was clear. In the early part of 2008 she started to not feel so good, having chest pains and arm pain. She put off going to the doctor as she didn’t think it was anything to worry about. Finally, in July she went to the doctor. She had the unthinkable – stage IV malignant melanoma
So here we were. A family so close but being pulled apart by cancer – melanoma. I was to be moving very shortly to Florida after being accepted to attend the Professional Golfer’s Career College in Winter Garden. After overcoming some health problems myself due to football concussions in high school, I was ready to pursue my dream of becoming a professional golfer. After receiving the news of mom’s melanoma diagnosis, I decided not to move that far away and wanted to put my dreams on hold. But my mom wouldn’t hear of it. So in a short period of time, we sold things, packed up, and our family, along with my grandma, moved to Florida.
By the time she started her first treatment of IL-2, the melanoma had further spread to her lungs and stomach. After an unsuccessful treatment, the melanoma quickly spread to her brain. She’s dealt with seizures, severe headaches, pain, throwing up, loss of appetite and everything else that goes along in fighting cancer. But one thing she’s never done is to give up. Mom made me a promise that she would never give up and that’s one promise she has kept. My mom has endured the Gamma Knife procedure, Chemotherapy, IPI in trial phase, Yervoy and Zelboraf.  She’s now on a treatment of Zelboraf and Yervoy combo, beating the odds and going against all statistics. Some might call this a miracle. At one time she had tumors in her brain, lungs, stomach, arm and adrenal glands. She now has 2 tumors left in her brain, tumors in adrenal glands but her stomach and lungs are both stable. People don’t realize the seriousness of melanoma and that it is indeed more than “just skin cancer”.
I was able to pursue my dream of golf by attending the Professional Golfer’s Career College in Winter Garden, FL. I graduated in April 2010 and became a professional in May, 2010. I work as a golf instructor while pursuing my professional career on several mini tours throughout Florida.  I’m planning on playing in the winter series on the Fore The Players Professional Golf Tour as well as the Moonlight Professional Golf Tour and the Hooter’s Winter Series. I recently traveled back to Iowa to participate in the Greater Cedar Rapids Open. I had participated in 2011 and continued on since my impact and story has made melanoma a part of the mission for the tournament.
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